CDC blames Trump's coronavirus mistake on 'erroneous' briefing

Observers have marveled for years as various government agencies have been "Trumpified." Here's hoping the CDC isn't the next office on the list.
Image: FILE: CDC Lab May Have Exposed Technician to Ebola Virus
It was reported that a laboratory mistake at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta may have exposed a technician to the deadly Ebola virus December 24, 2014.Jessica McGowan / Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Less than a day after bragging about the lack of U.S. coronavirus deaths, Donald Trump appeared in the White House press briefing room on Saturday and noted the first American fatality.

"At this moment, we have 22 patients in the United States currently that have coronavirus," the president declared, understating the actual count. "Unfortunately, one person passed away overnight. She was a wonderful woman."

The patient was actually a man. It led Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to publish a tweet soon after:

"CDC erroneously identified the patient as a female in a briefing earlier today with the President and Vice President."

It's certainly possible that the CDC made a mistake and gave Trump the wrong information during a private briefing on Saturday morning. But it's also possible that the president screwed this up, felt embarrassed, and directed the CDC to take the blame for his error.

I can't say with confidence which of these scenarios occurred in this case, but there is some precedent in the Trump administration for the latter dynamic.

What's more, WNYC's Elizabeth Kim noted on Friday, "For weeks I've been listening to nearly every CDC news telephone briefing on coronavirus. Tuesday was a wake-up call about a potential pandemic. Today, the first briefing after [Vice President Mike] Pence took over, was all about giving credit to Trump's border control strategy."

For more than three years, observers have marveled as various government agencies have been "Trumpified." Here's hoping the CDC isn't the next office on the list.